Getting Naked for Berkeley’s Oaks

The Memorial Stadium tree-sitters are bringing in their big gun this weekend. That’d be Jack Gescheidt, a well-regarded San Francisco photographer whose most recent interest is exploring our connection with nature by draping nude models over the limbs of trees. The photographer plans to work his magic Saturday morning from ten to noon on the oak trees at Cal’s Memorial Stadium. UC officials want to uproot the trees to make way for a new athletic training facility, and their standoff with community activists has lasted for months. Although Gescheidt typically works with models, he is opening this shoot to anyone who wants to participate (ten to one the X-plicit Players will show up). “He intends it to be a very dignified event,” says Doug Buckwald, director of SOS, or Save the Oaks at the Stadium. “He doesn’t intend it to be sensationalistic or anything like that.”
Uh-huh. Nothing sensational about putting naked people in a highly disputed urban grove where campus police have already made several arrests, and removed signs, tents, and information tables. Heck, local TV news stations will probably ignore the event altogether.

The fotog, who has done his tree thang for the past four and a half years or so, says he’s never done a nude tree shoot in an urban area with so much advance warning. He did do an unannounced early morning shoot in SF’s North Beach about a year ago. By the time the police showed up, it was mostly over, and nobody was arrested. But Saturday will be different. Way more people. Way more attention. Way more cops. “My intention is not to provoke the police,” says Gescheidt, who’s currently juggling media calls. “My intention is to provoke the community of Berkeley to think about whether they want trees in their cities.”

He implores Berkeleyans to remember a favorite tree from their childhoods. “This is the last stand of native coast live oaks on the Berkeley flatlands,” he says. “If the community wants the building instead, so be it. I just want people to think about it.”

A call to Cal’s deputy police chief to ask about his own favorite tree, and how the force might handle Saturday’s proceedings yielded no callback. Asked what he would do should Cal’s finest tell him to pack up his gear and move along, Gescheidt replies: “I would look the officer in the eye and take a deep breath — and act in the moment.”

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